What are Conversational AI Agents?
Conversational AI agents, also known as virtual assistants or chatbots, depending on their level of sophistication, are technologies with text and or speech recognition capabilities that provide human-like responses to human inquiries.
For a conversational AI agent to function efficiently, it needs to understand the meaning behind the request from the human user and then match this meaning (or intent) to its database of prepared responses. Advanced conversational AI agents are capable of learning from these requests over time to respond in more improvised ways. They can do this through a subdivision of AI called Machine Learning.
The aspect of Artificial Intelligence most directly related to the functionality of Conversational AI agents is Natural Language Processing – a hybrid of linguistics and AI that aims to teach computers the capacity to understand text and provide spoken words just as a human can. When spoken words, rather than text, is the input that the computer receives, the technology that enables the computer to understand the input is more specifically called Automated Speech Recognition.
Conversational AI vs Chatbots vs Virtual Assistants
These terms are often used interchangeably. However, they mean different things and are defined in terms of their complexity.
Chatbots are the most superficial level of Conversational AI agents as they mostly function as “question-and-answer” systems designed to provide exact responses to question matches.
Virtual AI agents are in the middle bracket. They not only provide answers to questions but they also have a wider functionality range such as small talk. Common examples are the technologies we interact with daily e.g. Siri, Alexa, Cortana.
Virtual Assistants occupy the uppermost level and are designed to go beyond isolated conversations to ensure a smooth flow of interactions. They are also built for specialized purposes and typically have a dedicated database that handles specific conversations with a higher level of advancement.
The Rise of Conversational AI
Conversational AI agents are becoming more popular today. We live in a fast-paced world where everyone wants quick solutions. A survey by PSFK discovered that no fewer than 74% of consumers turn to chatbots in the search for quick answers.
Existing economic forecasts favor the continued ascension of this technology as Markets and Markets projects that the global Conversational AI market will reach $15.7 billion in 2024 from $4.2 billion in 2019. Much of this spending will be directed towards the development of chatbots which is estimated will be worth $7.5 billion by 2024 from $1.2 billion in 2018.
Conversational AI and the Labor Force
Rather than serve as a direct replacement of the workforce, Conversational AI agents can help to optimize labor performance in several ways.
One of such ways is through voice analysis. Customer complaint interactions have a propensity to be emotionally charged conversations. While customer service agents are trained to recognize emotional swings, they cannot always detect subtle changes in tone. Voice analysis software can partner with agents to help with better emotion recognition and deliver optimal service.
Conversational AI agents can also introduce a higher level of order to collecting, processing and acting on complaints/inquiries. Natural Language Processing can be used to categorize complaints according to their nature and severity. This ensures that requests can be routed to the appropriate department and/or personnel in quick time. Furthermore, every interaction can be logged for easy tracking and status check by the complainant. Another important advantage to the use of AI-powered conversation systems is the capacity of the system to actually learn from the data and identify trends which can be used to inform the decision-making capability of the worker and overall business.
The onboarding process of a recent hire can be eased through these systems. Adequately trained chatbots can guide new employees through their roles and responsibilities and facilitate all necessary introductions before the commencement of work.
Governments will also find Conversational AI agents to be powerful tools of governance and for the protection of the rights of workers. Public and private sector employed workers can file rights’ infringements at their workplace with the relevant governmental parastatal through Conversational AI systems which can ensure that the complaints are processed and acted on rapidly. The systems can also be used to keep workers abreast of their rights and the latest government labor policies.
Public sentiments and reactions to policies can be processed through these agents. They also be used for data gathering purposes from the citizenry for registration purposes or the roll-out of government initiatives.